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MLB hot stove: Braves want an ace, but are reportedly unlikely to meet asking price for Corey Kluber

Earlier today, we noted that Atlanta Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos would “love” to land a frontline starting pitcher. The question heading forward is whether he’ll be willing to meet the asking price required to convert his ample prospect surplus into an ace. At least in the case of Cleveland Indians right-hander Corey Kluber, it appears the answer is “nah.”

According to MLB.com’s Mark Bowman, the Braves appear reluctant to part with what Cleveland desires for Kluber — a package headed by pitchers Kyle Wright and Touki Toussaint:

Early indications are Atlanta would have to deal Cristian Pache, Kyle Wright and Toussaint for three years of Kluber. That’s not going to happen.

Atlanta’s interest in Kluber is easy to understand. He’s 32 and coming off his fifth consecutive 200-inning season. He hasn’t posted an ERA+ below 150 since 2015, and he has finished third or better in Cy Young Award voting in four of the last five years. To cap it all off, he’s on a team-friendly deal that will pay him $18 million or less in each of the next three seasons — the second and third of which are club options. There aren’t many, if any negatives to note here without resorting to nitpicking.

That’s why it’s a little surprising the Braves are finding Cleveland’s ask to be too rich.

Sure, Atlanta drafted Wright fifth overall in 2017 and could slot him into their rotation sooner than later. Yes, Toussaint has significant upside. And it’s likely that Pache’s defensive skills alone will lead to a lengthy big-league career. But the technical term for the Braves’ young pitching depth is “ridiculous” and we’re talking about Corey Kluber here. If either Wright or Toussaint come anywhere near what Kluber is likely to provide in 2019, then they hit the lotto.

Of course we get why the Braves are reluctant. It’s late November; there are other options available, via trade and free agency; it’s part of the negotiating process; and so on and so forth until the cows come home. But jeez. If the Braves enter camp next spring without an ace, it may not be because other teams were asking for the moon and a couple stars to be named later.

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